The Great War, or the First World War as it is better known as today, was one of the most devastating military conflicts in the history of human warfare. The war involved the majority of the world’s great powers who were assembled into two different alliances: The Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente. The Triple Alliance consisted of Austria – Hungary, Germany and Italy and the Triple Entente contained Britain, France and Russia. Over 15 million people died during this war, thus making it one of the deadliest wars to ever take place.
The war had highly developed technology in Great Britain and many other countries. During the Great War, many new weapons were developed and had been used for the first time by both sides. So, this left many soldiers unfamiliar with the equipment they were using. However, it was not long before that thought had turned into something completely opposite. This essay will go into full detail involving the contribution of technology in the war, alongside other factors which contributed to the victory for the Triple Entente. Finally, all this information will be followed by a conclusion where my opinion will be summed up.
One of the greatest impacts of new technology during this war was the use of tanks. Tanks were first manufactured in Lincoln for World War One; at first, they were decided upon having a military function – to break the stalemate. However, as time passed by, it was later discovered that tanks could be used in a completely different way – propaganda. They made their first appearance on the battlefield in September 1916. Upon meeting the Germans, they were in full shock – scared of such a machine. They had no idea as to what it was – just an image in front them, getting nearer and nearer by the second. They also crushed through any barbed wire in their way.
German troops just kept on firing away the tank, unaware that the bullets bounced off – much hotter than when it had left the gun. At the time, it was invincible (considering Germans had never seen it before and had no idea whatsoever on how to overcome this problem) and therefore, made a successful attack. Another good aspect of the tank was that if the tank got struck, a plank could be thrown in front to help grip it back on track. Moreover, the tank had a net to prevent grenades from being thrown in. It was said: “Tanks changed an active war to a mobile war.” Due to all these advantages, it was relatively easy to kill the Germans.
Furthermore, tanks were used for propaganda. Firstly and foremost, immediately after the invention, people back home began to believe it was something that could potentially win the war. Therefore, positive morale was created. What’s more, people relied on newspapers for news which led to people being given the wrong information on some occasions. In addition, the government decided to set up tank banks and piggy banks were made. In the first week, a massive £25,000 was made and that is nothing but a strong indication of the amount of propaganda being fed. People were also patriotic, but nothing like that had ever been thought of – £5,000 to support the war!
Despite they were successful, however, tanks are also known for their problems. One famous example is at the battle of Somme when 49 tanks were sent to fight. Only 32 were ready for conflict – 18 fought, 5 got stuck and 9 more broke down. Problems were a factor from the start – they were inevitable.
Likewise, the British sent 400 tanks forward but they were sent back because they couldn’t manage to hold ground. They needed to dig in but didn’t. So, all of the advancing was in vain. It was later said that tanks can’t hold a position.
Also, tanks took so long to turn, resulting in delays. Another way in which tanks were seen as bad is that they were very vulnerable. Here is a list of things they were vulnerable to and why:
> Infantry – Foot soldiers close to the tank managed to find weak spots with the tank and therefore used them to their ability
> Mines – Minefields and landmines have been known for cutting through the tank’s bottom armour
> Aircraft – The opposition could have used missiles to pierce the top armour, a weak spot
Although tanks were known for crushing barbed wire, there was a mess of it on the outside. This could have made it hard for Allies or hard for the Germans to move around.
What’s more, whilst inside the tank, conditions were poor: people were left unconscious after being thrown around from corner to corner. In addition:
> Temperature – 50 degrees Celsius inside – very hard to work
> Sound – Too loud to hear someone shouting – have to use hand signs
> Atmosphere – Toxic fumes from engine + guns
> Space – very limited – crew of 8 to 9
These outline the main problems for the crew. Being too hot, too loud, too polluted and having a very limited amount of space is something crucial for the crew.
The most important thing, however, was that tanks were expensive, meaning a great amount of money being spent on them. Which makes it more interesting is that the Germans managed to capture tanks. This meant that they could find out how to build one and use them against the British. Which was exactly what happened: Germans decided to build a tank named A7V. In actual fact, on April 21st, Britain and Germany had a Tank vs. Tank fight. Britain won and by summer, 800,000 German lives were lost. The Germans lost the war and blamed it on the tanks. But – considering all of the problems – was it really the tanks?
Another significant contribution of technology during the war was the introduction of gas. It was a weapon which promised to lead mass panic among defending troops. The gas were effective in these conditions, since it was a largely a war of attrition that was fought in the trenches. It was first used by the Germans in 1915 and in the early stages; it looked like a great weapon. There were three main types of gas – chlorine, phosgene and mustard – all as effective as each other. Probably the most feared of all weapons.
The reasons that poisonous gases were so effective were that it killed their victims slowly, choking them to death, thus making them have a very painful death. It could take up to a staggering four or five weeks to do! The opposition were covered with blisters and was burnt all over. Also, it blinded many people and left them fighting for their breath. Even though people had wore gas masks, if it had touched bare skin. It would’ve done some serious damage. All this damage would have left them literally useless in the war. . It could be used when no attack was imminent and forced soldiers to put on crude gas masks which hampered mobility and were difficult to fight in.
Although, it did have its drawback – quite sever ones in this case. Probably the biggest disadvantage was that the gas was too dependent on the weather conditions. If the wind blew in the wrong direction, the poison would fall back into your own trenches and result in friendly casualties. Furthermore, it could easily be prevented; you just had to wear gas masks. After 1916, it wasn’t very effective at all – only 3% of gas victims died and the rest were able to return to duty.
The machine gun was one hell of a weapon. It most certainly had a huge impact on the war and without them, the war will still be going to today (metaphorically). They were developed towards the end of the 19th century and could fire very rapidly. The bullet was about 7 to 8 bullet per second. In addition, they did not need constant reloading making the gun very effective. They provided distinct advantages to defenders. Once they were dug into trenches, it was easy to defend a line and extremely difficult for attackers to get near enough to take positions. This was due to the fact that the high rate of fire, machine guns made easy kill from short to medium range available.
On the other hand, there were some certain disadvantages when it came to using the machine gun. Although, it gave the defender the advantage, machine guns weren’t used in attack. They were cumbersome to carry and were hard to use in no-man’s land. Once an attack had begun, the attacking side could not give support to their troops using machine guns as they would be running the risk of hitting their own side.
Finally, the last weapon that had an impact on the war were the aeroplanes. Both the engine design and aircraft had changed the war considerably. This weapon made a rapid, unexpected leap in technology – you could say it was the starting of a new era. Within 2 or 3 of making them, the fearsome airplanes came into use. Some examples are Gotha, Handley Page bombers and the Zeppelin airship. Aircraft had several advantages which made them highly useful in the war. One of the most significant advantages of aircraft was the ability to use them for investigation purposes. It gave access to see what was happening on the opposition’s side. This as a result, allowed the attackers to get an idea of their trenches, enlighten them with the whereabouts of the enemy and so on… They aeroplanes also gave the passenger the ability to drop hand held bombs. Bombers now had a better vantage point for precise bombardment of enemy territory.
Aircrafts also had major flaws in them, since they were used for the first time in World War One, just like the tanks, so it is expected that they wouldn’t be perfect. Most of the aeroplanes were made of wood thus making it very fragile and the conditions very bad. The fact at how easy it was to shoot them down played a great part. The planes were very unreliable and caught on fire easily. Not forgetting that there were only a few safety features – there wasn’t even a parachute! Additionally, there was no heating, so during the winter when it was very cold, many had suffered from hypothermia. Finally, the technology was new and hadn’t been tested before. This meant the pilot had no idea if it would survive under attack…
Artillery was another weapon which had quite a big, unexpected leap in technology. This then went on to have quite a big impact on the opposition. Its purpose was to oppose the trench fighting in the war. Artillery was first developed in 1897. Artillery had several advantages such as being able to fire over a long range, killing a large number of people and being able to halt a commencing attack easily. It was very useful for both attack and defence as it would leave the opponent with no choice but to retreat. Artillery also had several disadvantages. One of these was that it was very expensive to use.
It wasn’t only technology that contributed towards the victory of the Triple Entente; there were also many other important factors. The blockade of Germany was a naval blockade by the British Royal Navy from 1914 onwards, in an effort to restrict the maritime supply of raw materials and foodstuffs to Germany and its allies, and is considered one of the key elements in the eventual victory of the Allied Powers. Both the German Empire and United Kingdom relied heavily on imports to feed their population and supply their war industry, thus both aimed to blockade each other.
The British had the Royal Navy which was superior in numbers and could operate within the British Empire, while the German Kaiserliche Marine surface fleet was mainly restricted to the German Bight, and used commerce raiders and unrestricted submarine warfare to operate elsewhere. Only the northern part of Germany faced the sea and there were just a few major ports therefore the British were able to stop supplies getting into Germany. As a result, the Germans decided to counter attack this by starting a strict rationing system in January 1915 and the submarine offensive which was later countered by the British depth charges.
Another big blow towards the Triple Alliance and a huge favour for the Triple Entente was the support of American soldiers. Both Britain and France were in a bad state. There was a mutiny in the French army, thus giving it a risk of collapsing. Also, before the invention of the depth charge, the German submarines would have collapsed the British within a few months. However, this all prevented when America joined the Triple Entente in April 1917.
The Americans had brought a completely new supply for the British and French; new ammo, more food, medical supplies, etc… America we were able to supply the allies with fresh troops to counteract the new German troops on the Western Front. They were also pouring tons of money into the war, as well as becoming an enormous supplier of war goods. Furthermore, Woodrow Wilson had ordered 2000 planes per month to be sent to the Western Front. This greatly assisted the Triple Entente and as a result, started up high morale. Many would say that this factor completely destroyed the Germans.
Moving on, the contribution of the troops in the British Empire helped them a lot in the war. Around 1914, the British realised their army would get absolutely smashed if they were to take on the Central Powers. However, the army was supported and increased to a larger size when troops from Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa arrived to help their friends. In addition to that, more soldiers joined from African Colonies and from the Indian army. This meant that due to the help of the extra soldiers, the British army was able to fight competently with the Germans. The Germans underestimated the ability of the British army to be a threat anywhere other than on the sea but were highly mistaken when the British were engaging the Germans on the Western Front.